Mobility is cool, but there are security risks
Last of a two-part series
In my last column, I began a series on how to get wireless Internet access on your laptop. As I mentioned, a good place to put your laptop through its paces is a public wireless hot spot.
Hot Spots are often free of charge, but there are places such as hotels or the Honolulu International Airport where access is restricted to guests or paying customers.
According to my rough calculations, there are about 30 free hot spots around town. For a complete listing check out www.wififreespot.com.
Bringing it on home
While it's cool to surf the Web or answer e-mail while sipping a latte at a downtown cafe, I find more often than not I'm most productive using the wireless capabilities of my laptop in the comfort of my own home. To do this, you'll need to set up a wireless home network. It may sound daunting, but it is not all that difficult, if you have some technical skills. (If you don't, ask your favorite geek for help).
I think the best type of home Wi-Fi network is a new technology called MIMO, which has the advantage of greater range and penetration of walls in a home or office. (See our column www. starbulletin.com/2005/07/11/business/technology.html for more details.) For this you'll need to spend on the order of $250 for the components, which include a router and a wireless network card for your laptop.
Another option, for those who also travel a great deal, is to buy a wireless travel router such as the Linksys WTR54GS Wireless-G Travel Router. This allows you to take a wireless network with you on the road. Thus, if you're at a hotel with broadband access, all you need to do is plug the router into the Ethernet outlet and, presto, you've got wireless connection in your room.
'The price for this product or similar ones is $100 or less.
A Wi-Fi issue I would caution about is security. The easiest way to respond to this is with your laptop's own, built-in security measures. This pretty much involves checking off a few boxes in the software setup, creating some passwords or enabling encryption.
If you don't activate some security features, it's easy for anyone to piggyback on your network or, worse, hack into your system and read your love letters. Not enabling security is like leaving your front door wide open.
Here's a real world example of what could happen: After setting up my own home network I neglected to deal with security measures. No excuses. I just didn't get to it. A few days later, one of my neighbors told me with undisguised glee that it was easy for his middle-school daughter to tap into my network with her new laptop. While I wasn't worried about a 10 year old girl hacking into my system, it certainly taught me a lesson. Within five minutes of our conversation I had security set up.
The lesson is, mobility is cool but there are security risks with Wi- Fi.
general manager of digital phone at Oceanic Time Warner Cable, has been a telecommunications and computer expert for 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org